Gay prison inmates in California will be able to marry their non-imprisoned partners.
Gay inmates in state prisons and county jails will soon be able to marry their partners, as long as their spouse is not also incarcerated, prison and jail operators said Thursday. State prison and county jail overseers were putting finishing touches on the new policy to follow the state Supreme Court ruling in May legalizing gay marriage. Gay inmates would have the same marriage rights as their straight counterparts, a Department of Corrections spokeswoman said.
“Inmates can marry noninmates; there is no requirements based on gender, as long as they’re outside the prison walls,” Michele Kane said. “But we’re not changing our inmate-to-inmate policy. … Safety and security, those are the top priorities right now.”
Neither gay nor straight inmates will be able to marry other prisoners, even if they’re in different facilities, Kane said. Prison operators worry that allowing fellow inmates to marry could lead to safety issues, Kane said. “One of our main safety concerns are if prisoners found out how much money or assets another prisoner may have; if they are a powerful inmate, they may force the other inmate to marry them and lay claim to their property,” she said. Contra Costa jails are watching the state prison system’s policy and the November election. Proposition 8, a constitutional initiative that would invalidate same-sex marriages could render any policy decision moot.
Whether prisoners in the same prison will be able to marry has not yet been determined.